There’s good news on the peanut front – or more precisely, those with peanut allergies.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the first drug to treat potentially life-threatening allergic reactions to peanuts.

The drug, Palforzia [Peanut (Arachis hypogaea) Allergen Powder-dnfp], can be used for children between 4 and 17 years old with a confirmed diagnosis of peanut allergy.

“Peanut allergy affects approximately 1 million children in the U.S. and only 1 out of 5 of these children will outgrow their allergy. Because there is no cure, allergic individuals must strictly avoid exposure to prevent severe and potentially life-threatening reactions,” said Peter Marks, M.D., Ph.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. “Even with strict avoidance, inadvertent exposures can and do occur. When used in conjunction with peanut avoidance, Palforzia provides an FDA-approved treatment option to help reduce the risk of these allergic reactions in children with peanut allergy.”

The new treatment essentially works by exposing children to controlled dosages of peanut protein until they’ve reached a maintenance level.

This is actually big news not only for kids with peanut allergies, but the potential for the method being used to treat the allergy may be able to be extended to other allergies as well.

While not a cure, in studies, a majority of those who reached maintenance on Palforzia could eat two peanut’s worth of the product without reacting. This significantly reduces the risk of severe reaction if an allergic child accidentally eats some peanut-containing food. Aimmune is now studying similar protocols for egg allergy and tree nut allergies.

This is a game changer in many regards. For kids (and their parents) who have to worry about mere exposure to peanuts, being able to eat by accident a peanut or exposure to something like peanut butter may in the near future not nearly be the same risk.

There is always a lot of talk about drug companies and how evil they are, and sometimes (more time than we like,) that talk is true.

Yet there are tremendous financial risks. As Palforzia moves to stage two testing, it will take approximately $450 million dollars to get there. That’s a boat load of money and that doesn’t include all of the research and testing costs before getting FDA approval.

Bottom line is that we hope that Palforzia works and brings relief – both physical and emotional – to those who have peanut allergies or whose loved ones suffer from the allergy.

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